Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 4/12/12
It happens every spring. Once the NHL playoffs begin, one of the least penalized teams in the league suddenly becomes a penalty magnet. It happened again Wednesday night in Nashville as the Red Wings were penalized six times during their 3-2 loss to the Predators - in game that was high on drama and low on officiating tolerance. Nashville was penalized eight times, so both teams found it difficult to sustain any rhythm, but Detroit was penalized early in the game, killing off all six of their penalties by the midway point of the second period. After the penalties started to even out, the Wings were able to settle down and made it a hockey game. If it wasnt for the efforts of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, the Wings could easily be up one game to none in their best of seven playoff series against the Predators. Instead, they find themselves down by a game to the Preds with game two slated for Friday night in the Music City. During the regular season, Detroit and Nashville were the two least penalized teams in the NHL. The Predators averaged 8.4 minutes a game and the Wings were right behind with an average of 8.5 minutes per game, but you wouldnt have known it by the game that was called on Wednesday. This is nothing new for the Red Wings, however. Over their past two playoff runs, they have gone from the one of the regular seasons least penalized teams to being the playoff leader in team penalty minutes. Many have attributed this anomaly to Detroit being a skilled team that tends to take penalties when the physical play is revved up come playoff time. The Wings cant handle the rough and tumble game, so they resort to desperate tactics, which includes breaking the rules, or so that line of thinking goes. Red Wing players reject that notion, indicating that it takes time to adjust to how the game is being officiated. It has nothing to do with a building sense of frustration over physical play. Whatever the reason, NHL officiating is, at its best, wildly inconsistent and at its worst, an embarrassment. On Wednesday in Nashville it was consistently bad, which is a total travesty. Maybe the officials were wound too tight because the commissioner was in the house or maybe they wanted to send a message early and often to the players of what the standard was going to be or maybe theyre just terrible officials. Any way you look at it, there were too many soft penalties called, which had a profound impact on the game. When youre killing off penalties half of your bench receives little icetime while the other half is constantly on the ice on the penalty kill. So, half of your team is lethargic while the other half is gassed, which leads to choppy play. For a team such as Detroit, that wants to roll 4 lines and establish an aggressive fore check, penalties slow you down and take you completely out of your game plan. Even though penalties were a factor in Wednesdays loss, the Wings still need a better net presence in front of Rinne. He made a lot of saves, but once there were bodies in front of him, Rinne tended to scramble in his crease, which lead to golden scoring opportunities. As long as Detroit continues to be aggressive, get traffic in front of the net and dictate the pace of play, they should be alright. If Wednesday proved anything, it was Detroits skill level is a cut above Nashvilles and officiating can ruin everything.
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